ECB to stick with bowler-friendly ball for summer of cricket

The English Cricket Board has announced that they will be using the same ball this summer as they did during the last - a ball which differs from that used in county cricket and which typically favours bowlers more so than batsmen. Ball manufacturer Duke was asked by the ECB earlier this year to produce a ball with a tighter seam, a move which was intended to make batting a little easier for struggling batsmen on difficult pitches in county cricket.

However, they haven’t followed the same line of thinking for the international summer - headlined, of course, by the Ashes - instead opting to remain with the 2018 Duke which had a more pronounced seam, and which resulted in a number of relatively low scoring matches during the five-game Test series between England and India - a series the home side won 4-1.

Certainly, a ball which is more receptive to swing and seam bowling suits England and their world-class bowling attack of Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and co. Australia, however, boasts an elite fast-bowling unit of its own, and with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood likely to pose a significant threat on England’s swinging pitches and now even more so with a bowler-friendly ball, the move can’t exactly be said to be one made purely with the home side’s own interests in mind.

What it does do is create even more intrigue around the upcoming Ashes series. There was a period a number of years ago where the balance of power had swung too far in the direction of the batsmen. Where scores of 500+ hardly raised an eyelid and draws became apparent just a couple of days into the match.

Perhaps it depends on the type of cricket supporter you are, but speaking purely from a personal perspective, the prospect of a low scoring series is a tantalising one. The type of series where teams stumbling their way to 300 puts them in a good position; where any century goes down as one of the best in that batsman’s career, and where even a half-century is worth significant applause; where good bowling makes batting extremely difficult.

As ECB’s director of cricket, Ashley Giles, had to say, ‘it’s about having a fair contest’. It isn’t about making life impossible for the batsmen - about deliveries that deviate in ways that simply aren’t predictable, and which result in a significant number of wickets coming from luck. It’s about providing value to the bowler for bowling well, while simultaneously enabling the batsman a chance to score big if he demonstrates patience, technique and good decision-making. These are what Test cricket should be about, and with the ECB opting to swing the pendulum a little back towards the bowler - even if it’s a decision they may not have made if they didn’t have such a potent fast bowling lineup - can only be a good thing. It’s set to be some kind of a series.

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